For those of us working from home, the pandemic has stolen some of the best parts of the job. Seeing our work friends. Work birthday cake. And, most importantly, leaving work. We chatted with Brandy Kawulka, owner of New Westminster, B.C.-based Wood Be Art Renovations, about the latest COVID-cool design hack—turning your closet into a home office. How good would it feel to shut that door at the end of the day?
Kawulka explains that for most, closet space isn’t high-functioning—but it can be. “A lot of people have a hanging rod in their closet with some shoes kicked in the bottom,” she says, “but you can turn it into a dedicated workspace if you sacrifice a little bit of storage.” Here is her best advice.
1. Start at the Door
If your closet doors are sliders, they’ll have to be removed altogether. Bifolds or swing doors can stay as-is, and can even be a helpful psychological tool for work/life balance: you can literally close up shop at the end of the day. “You can also also replace your closet doors with sliding barn doors, if you have space to do so,” says Kawulka.
2. Consider a Built-in Desktop
You’ll probably be able to find a free-standing desk that fits into your closet, but Kawulka suggests looking into a custom built-in. Going the custom route means the perfect fit: “nothing will fall off the back or down the side,” she says. A built-in desktop will also leave more space below for storage and legroom. Desks are generally 30” tall, so keep that in mind if you’re going custom.
3. Don’t Forget About Power
“You’ll need a way to incorporate outlets for charging, plugging in a printer, or adding a desk lamp,” says Kawulka. Often times a contractor can tap off an existing outlet on a wall adjacent to the closet—or, if your outlet need is minimal, you can use a good ol’ extension cord.
4. Think Vertical
In terms of storage, Kawulka stresses making the most out of your vertical space. Keep under-desk storage to a minimum to leave room for your knees and chair, and use bookshelves above, instead (standard depth for those is 12”). “If there’s a return, or cave, in the inside of your closet, consider using cabinets on wheels,” says Kawulka. “You can nest them into the corners and pull them out when you need access.”
5. Soften Sounds
“If you are lucky enough to turn a walk-in closet into an office, you may find there’s an echo,” says Kawulka. That’s not ideal for our Zoom-dependent reality. “Adding soft surfaces to absorb the sound vibration will be helpful,” she suggests. Her go-tos are a cloth or fabric office chair, canvas art, or area rug to help quiet workspaces.
6. Make a Fourth Wall
Closet offices don’t make for the most professional backgrounds, but a simple tri-fold screen will do the trick. “They make a great backdrop, so nobody sees your bed or other adjacent space which may not be as tidy as you may prefer,” says Kawulka. “It also gives you a room-like feeling and shields you from the domestic duties just behind you, which again helps to create that work zone headspace versus personal life boundary.”
7. Dress it Up
Just because it’s no longer a closet doesn’t mean fashion is off the table. Kawulka suggests using a different paint colour, wallpaper, and fun storage solutions like baskets to elevate the space.